Br J Gen Pract. 1995 May; 45(394): 255-8.
Complementary practitioners as part of the primary health care team: evaluation of one model.
Centre for Complementary Health Studies, University of Exeter.
BACKGROUND. A four-partner, non-fundholding, urban practice with 6000 patients has since September 1991 worked closely with nine complementary practitioners working part time on a private, fee-paying basis. AIM. This study set out to describe and evaluate a model of integrating complementary practitioners into the primary health care team. METHOD. A description of the model operating in the practice was compiled. Qualitative analysis was carried out of semistructured interviews with all members of the primary health care team using the method of a cooperative enquiry. Retrospective quantitative data on patients attending complementary practitioners were also examined. RESULTS. The model allowed patients to refer themselves or be referred by a team member, encouraged communication between team members, and did not require any specific funding. After two years the model had been largely successful in preventing conflict over power, control and decision making; had maintained commitment to the idea of integrating complementary and allopathic medicine; and was self-funding. However, despite varied mechanisms set up to share knowledge and ideology, the rate of change in this area was slower than expected and referral rates were varied. The dilemma of charging patients for complementary medicine in an environment where health care is free emerged as a major concern among the doctors and practice staff. CONCLUSION. The method of cooperative inquiry allowed the whole team to gain an understanding of other viewpoints and to use the research to tackle the problems raised. This model could be adopted and used by any enthusiastic general practice.